MP Ingrida Šimonytė, who will run against Ušackas in the HU-LCD presidential primaries next month, says closer European defense cooperation should not overlap NATO's functions in military integration, but adds that this issue should be discussed.
Ušackas recognizes the need to maintain good transatlantic relations, but points out that "some statements by Donald Trump bring some instability".
"Let's not put all our eggs in one basket. We have to be at the forefront of the EU's defense integration. In this respect, I'm criticizing the current Lithuanian leadership's passive position of and non-participation in the European Intervention Initiative.
That would help us to be at the core of decision-making (and) to maintain a particularly close relationship with Britain, which will stay in this structure after leaving the EU," the former diplomat said during the party's presidential primary debate on Tuesday evening.
"Estonia is in, so why Lithuania isn't? This is not a wise or ambitious decision," he said.
Šimonytė agrees that the EU has its advantages over NATO when it comes to certain decisions and says she would approve of integration in other areas, but not in military.
"I don't think we should consider decisions that would in some way duplicate what NATO does today. Because NATO is doing what needs to be done. It is the key defense organization. In the EU, we must look for what we call complementary, rather than competition," the lawmaker said.
"I think we need to consider this issue, but I have no easy answer," she said, when asked if Lithuania should join the European intervention force.
Šimonytė also says she supports, in principle, the idea of introducing universal military conscription in Lithuania, but underlines the need to ensure that the Armed Forces are capable of taking in more conscripts.
"We must see everything in context, but in principle, yes," she said, when asked if she backed the idea of universal conscription.
Ušackas says he supports the existing mixed system where professional soldiers, conscripts and volunteers serve in the Armed Forces, but adds that he would assess the need for universal conscription in light of the geopolitical situation.
"I'd make my decision on whether to introduce universal conscription in light of the geopolitical situation and based on advice from Lithuania's best generals," he said.
The HU-LCD will hold its primaries for next May's president election on November 3 and 4.
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